Monday, April 25, 2022

An Anniversary Special with some publishing tips:

Dear New Author,

The Midwest Writing Center, MWC, captured my attention sometime around 2008. It was about the time when I started writing for the Galva News. I had a great editor in Doug Boock, but I knew I had a lot to learn if my news items and features were going to get better. Julie Jenson McDonald was a columnist and feature writer for the Argus-Dispatch newspapers. She often wrote about MWC, then located on the third floor of the Bucktown Center in Davenport. The trip from Bishop Hill to Davenport for one day workshops was the best option for me at the time. Out of the usual three offerings, I could count on one or two that would meet my needs.

I was never an attentive English student in school, and I basically had to start from scratch. So, while I was catching up on what I should have known all along and learning the nuts and bolts of writing, a book about Bishop Hill percolated in the background.

When I thought it was time for me to seriously think about publishing my first book, I naturally looked to MWC Press, an imprint of the Midwest Writing Center. Along with the one-day workshops I’d been attending I splurged and enrolled in a three-month novel writing workshop. From there I gathered the courage to register for the David R. Collin’s Writers’ Conference, an annual event at the end of June. Courage was the correct word here because I began as the shy person in the back of the room afraid to raise my hand, get noticed, or be expected to speak. Breaking away from all that took time, but it did happen.

I presented my first novel, Clouds Over Bishop Hill, a cozy mystery, to a panel at the 2015 Collin’s conference and it was accepted as a MWC Press printing project. After content and line editing, it was published in Aug 2016. All that editing was very valuable for me. I still feel that it gave me the best possible book for that time.

My first foray into self-publishing came in 2017 with a slim volume of short stories. My original goal was to have a few handbound books suitable for Christmas gifts. I ran out of time and decided to use CreateSpace, since MWC Press used it. I did my own formatting and cover. I got something that was adequate.

My second journey into self-publishing came with Shadows Over Bishop Hill, the sequel to COBH. Again, pressed for time because I wanted to have it out for Bishop Hill’s 175th anniversary in 2021, I thought that since I had some experience with formatting, I’d be OK to tackle a bigger project. I was wrong. CreateSpace had turned into KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, and was much more involved than I expected. My computer literate husband and KDP University helped me get the novel ready to publish, but it was a stressful time for me. That was just me. Others may have more computer skills than I. Just know that the pros do earn their money.

And speaking of pros, I paid professionals for cover designs or both novels. Getting blurbs for the back covers always takes time and it often comes down to politely asking an author you know well for help. Another bonus for attending workshops, conferences, and critique groups.

Marketing is a huge job for any author and doesn’t diminish no matter what kind of publishing one pursues. One of the advantages I got out of presenting to MWC Press at the 2016 DRC Writers’ Conference was their request for a marketing plan. It made me think of my possibilities. Unfortunately, all plans have been put on hold or drastically altered in the past two years of pandemic. I am still trying to cope with that.

My best advice to any new author would be to check out KDP and see if it’s a good fit. Do be aware that using Amazon ISBN numbers, while free, will limit your marketing options. Read the fine print. I created my own press and purchased my own ISBNs. KDP is my printer.

Self-publishing and hybrid publishing opportunities have grown immensely and there are options out there that I don’t know about. As frustrating as the last book was to complete, I would do it again. My advice would be to do the research and find the best opportunity for your needs.

I hope this has been helpful.

Mary D

MWC is a non-profit organization and a great asset for this area with resources for any writer, at any stage of their career. Find information at:


Favorite Bookmarks #5

This is an older bookmark for MWC, the Midwest Writing Center, a vital resource for the Quad City area. I’ve saved it because of prominent directive to Read! Write! 

The flying books are a nice bonus.